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OpenSUSE version 12.2 is finally here at last

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September 17, 2012

The Linux community can celebrate now: openSUSE 12.2 is finally here at long last. The release, due more than two months ago, has been plagued with countless delays and technical issues.

Normally, a few delays here and there wouldn't be a big deal under usual circumstances. After all, software bugs happen all the time and most users would agree a late but stable release is better than a permanent buggy one.

But with this new development cycle, the openSUSE delays were bad enough to cause some soul-searching among the development team. OpenSUSE release manager Stephan Kulow writes that the distribution needs to "use the delay of 12.2 as a reason to challenge our current development model and look at new methods."

But for now, it's still unclear what those new methods may mean for the future of openSUSE releases, but at least now you have your openSUSE 12.2 up and running.

And the good news is that it was well worth the wait. This release is noticeably faster than version 12.1 and quite a bit snappier than Kubuntu and other KDE distros we've tested lately.

For instance, the Dolphin file manager in particular feels much faster. In fact if KDE is your desktop of choice, you really owe it to yourself to take openSUSE 12.2 for a test drive. Not only is it fast, it's the best-looking default KDE desktop you're likely to find in the Linux community.

If you heavily customize your desktop that may not matter much, but if you prefer to leave things as they are and just want a nice looking theme while you work, openSUSE is a good choice.

Some might be disappointed to learn that openSUSE sticks with KDE 4.8 rather than making the leap to 4.9, but openSUSE has always been a conservative distribution that prefers the stable and tested to the bleeding edge, especially when it comes to the desktop environment. And 12.2 certainly continues in that tradition in more ways than one.

Of course, there are repos available for those that would like to upgrade to KDE 4.9. That conservative approach to new software means that openSUSE is just now embracing GRUB 2, which is welcome if only to ease the pain of dual booting with other distros - most of which long since made the leap to GRUB 2.

But to go along with GRUB 2, openSUSE is now using Plymouth to create a very slick start-up screen. In fact, combined with GRUB 2, Plymouth's openSUSE-themed graphics and the very slick KDE desktop theme and a whole new visual experience of booting into openSUSE puts even Ubuntu to shame.

Of course, if you prefer the boot sequence to use black-on-white text that says "I'm a nerd; hear me roar", just remember to hit escape during the boot process.

For Linux applications, openSUSE takes a more pragmatic approach than the default KDE suite, installing apps like Firefox and LibreOffice alongside KDE's somewhat less impressive offerings in the same categories.

And openSUSE again applies the shoe polish, offering tight integration between outside KDE apps like Firefox and LibreOffice and the Plasma desktop theme.

Installing openSUSE from the DVD will also get you some extras like GIMP for photo editing and the Tomahawk social music player, which can pull music from a variety of online sources.

But while openSUSE 12.2 has much to love - significant speed boosts, a well-polished desktop and a solid suite of software - there are still a few rough spots to be aware of here and there, namely the YaST package management tools.

It used to be that the first thing you did with a new openSUSE install was to head first to YaST and start configuring everything. In fact, much of openSUSE's appeal revolved around YaST, which offered graphical configuration tools simply not found anywhere else. But these days, the competition's tools have improved and YaST feels less necessary.

While there are still some nice graphical tools in YaST, most of them are aimed at system admins. Configuration tools for stuff like X.org have moved off to the desktop environment and for the home user, YaST is primarily about the Software Manager, which is quite frankly looking long in the making when compared to what you'll find in Ubuntu or Fedora.

It's mostly functional but bare bones in its own way. Contrast that with the slick one-click web-based package installation process, and YaST's package management system feels neglected.

There are some very good tools in openSUSE 12.2 for system admins, but it can't really compete with CentOS or Red Hat in the server market. There's a very slick desktop and lots of nice software aimed at home users, but much of that is built on top of older, often awkward and confusing tools that feel more enterprise-oriented.

And that's where openSUSE seems poised, at least for now, sort of one foot still in the enterprise segment and one foot on the desktop for home users.

In order to really stand out next to more popular distributions like RedHat, CentOS and Ubuntu, openSUSE needs to polish its rough edges in a way.

But still, while there's more work left to be done, openSUSE 12.2 is a good release that is faster than 12.1 and well worth checking out whether you're new to openSUSE or just haven't taken it for a test drive yet.

In other Linux news

Intel has confirmed earlier this morning that it will not provide support for the Linux operating system on its Clover Trail Atom CPUs. Intel's Clover Trail Atom processor can be seen in various nondescript laptops and the company provided a lot of architectural details on the processor, confirming details such as dual-core and a number of power states.

But Intel added that Clover Trail is a Windows 8 chip and that the chip cannot run Linux. As the semiconductor giant is pushing Clover Trail into tablets, a category of various devices that is dominated by Linux-based Android and the Unix BSD-based iOS, Intel said that it will not support Linux on Clover Trail.

Given that the company said Clover Trail takes a lot of technology from its Medfield Atom processor, which runs Android on a number of smartphones, it seems that Chipzilla is putting up an artificial barrier to try to help Microsoft and its upcoming Windows 8 operating system.

While Intel's claim that Clover Trail won't run Linux isn't quite true, at least not exactly. After all, it is an x86 instruction set so there is no major reason why the Linux kernel will not run. Given that the company will not support it, device makers are unlikely to produce Linux Clover Trail devices for their own support reasons.

Intel didn't detail why it won't support Linux but instead merely mumbled murkily that "there's a lot of software work that has to go into a chip to support it in an operating system".

Intel went to great lengths to highlight the new P-states and C-states in which it can completely shut down the clock of a core. The chip maker said the operating system needs to provide "hints" to the processor in order to make use of power states and it seems likely that such 'hints' are presently not provided by the Linux kernel in order to properly make use of Clover Trail.

Intel's decision to support only Windows 8 on Clover Trail might work for laptops but seems very risky for tablets, where x86 tablets running Windows 8 look to be priced close to Apple's iPad and significantly higher than Google's Nexus 7 and even Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet.

When the PC market speaks, Intel and Microsoft might well find that Clover Trail is a dead end, although the Linux community still hasn't made its views heard on this yet, and we can safely bet that not everyone will be happy with Intel's last minute decision.

In other mobile news

Enterprise solutions provider Riverbed said today that it has more than quadrupled the amount of data its Whitewater storage appliance can keep in the cloud, and now is making it even faster.

Riverbed's Whitewater appliance is a Cloud Storage Gateway, a server that sits at the logical edge of a data centre and sends data to either private or public storage clouds.

Supported private clouds use EMC Atmos or OpenStack components. The public ones include Amazon, AT&T, HP, Nirvanix, Rackspace, Sun Hosting and Microsoft's Azure. Whitewater can send any data to the cloud such as backup files, archive data and database records with the cloud acting as a consolidated data protection resource for distributed IT services.

IDC says that public cloud storage currently has a 33.6 percent compound annual growth rate. A gateway acts as a cloud storage on-ramp, deduplicating and sending data efficiently to the cloud as well as acting as a local cache.

As cloud storage becomes even more popular, the on-ramp needs to become faster, its management easier, and its maximum capacity has to be increased. So to achieve that, Riverbed has brought out a new high-end appliance, the 3010, and a version two of its Whitewater operating system in response to the need.

The 3010 has four times more local disk capacity at 32 TB, provides up to 160 TB of deduplicated cloud storage, has twice the main memory at 64 GB, and processes data 50 percent faster, at 1.5 TB per hour compared to the 2010's 1 TB per hour.

It's far easier to increase storage capacity than ingest rates. Riverbed says that the capacity increases represent total source data of 1.6 PB to 4.8 PB.

However, Whitewater is no speed king. Even a year ago, Quantum's DXi6700 data storage appliances were ingesting at up to 5 TB per hour. And Data Domain's 670 appliance is up to 5.4 TB per hour.

Whitewater's 3010 can only be reasonably compared to entry-level Data Domain and Quantum deduplicating backup arrays. The Q-Cloud from Quantum couples its deduping DXi servers with cloud storage so that will have Whitewater-beating ingest performance.

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Riverbed's second major release of the Whitewater operating system has a new dashboard summarizing the main cloud gateway operating attributes. It also provides remote management of Whitewater appliances, including shut-down and reboot, and has MS Active Directory integration.

Over time, we could expect the main storage array and converged server plus storage system vendors to extend their own cloud access product functionalities, giving Riverbed a harder time at competing for its products.

For instance, Dell has its own deal with Nirvanix. Part of the impetus here is to preserve storage array sales by having them, or an appliance, get out data from their banks of disks and pump it up to cloud storage vaults.

Bundling cloud storage gateway appliance functionality into an array would have a certain appeal-- just one server to manage; a co-ordinated 3-tier data storage strategy; server area flash for hot data, disk array for cool data; and cloud for the backup and data.

Riverbed is focusing on data protection, so it's advising that enterprise customers stop using backup tape and stop bothering with their own disk-to-disk and virtual tape library backup stores.

It says that the easy wins of deduplicated disk backup have been made and the relentless rise of backup data volumes is making it cost-prohibitive, whereas cloud storage is getting a lot cheaper.

Then of course, there is the issue of fast restores from the cloud. ie: they don't exist. But a local appliance cache for the newest data can help solve that problem.

The key message here is overall cost: "Whitewater appliances eliminate backup tapes, improve disaster recovery readiness, and seamlessly integrate with existing data protection software applications in the enterprise segment to cut overall costs 30 to 50 percent over tape and replicated disk solutions," says Riverbed.

Will Whitewater beat the converged and integrated system messages coming from the storage and server system vendors? We'll simply have to wait and see and hope for the best.

In other Linux and IT news

Kaspersky Labs said earlier this morning that it has launched its new Kaspersky Linux Mail Security application, which can be easily integrated into a variety of Linux-based mail server configurations to better combat spam and block malicious attachments and viruses.

One distinct feature of spam-related malware is the hit and run nature of most attacks. When a wave of spam with new threats is first unleashed, approximately fifty percent of all intended recipients receive the message in the first ten minutes of the attack.

This simply means that security response times have to be just as fast if not faster. By linking Kaspersky Linux Mail Security with a Kaspersky Lab’s Urgent Detection System, Linux users receive regular updates to their anti-spam databases in minutes instead of hours or, worse, days.

The new protection technologies offered in Kaspersky Linux Mail Security include:

  • Exploit detection -– This uses Kaspersky Lab’s ZETA Shield technology to block complex threats and targeted attacks that exploit new and unknown vulnerabilities in common software.
  • Attachment filter and format recognizer -– That feature actually monitors and filters email attachments by their actual content, regardless of its declared file type or extension, and responds according to each company’s security policies, effectively blocking inappropriate email traffic (e.g., music files and videos) and potentially dangerous files (e.g., executable files).
  • Enforced anti-spam update service -– It connects customers more directly than ever to Kaspersky Lab’s security experts to produce very fast responses times to malicious spam outbreaks.
  • Reputation-based spam filtering -– This feature uses the global intelligence of Kaspersky Lab’s Urgent Detection System to categorize spam according to reputation, meaning variants of previously-identified spam attacks are automatically blocked without the need for analyst review.
  • New Anti Virus engine -– Provides better anti-malware detection with reduced impact on system resources. In addition, it now includes an updatable heuristic virus analyzer to better combat new and unknown threats.
  • Kaspersky Linux Mail Security works as an anti-spam, anti-malware solution in conjunction with widely adopted Linux-based mail servers, including Postfix, Qmail, Sendmail, Communigate Pro and, last but certainly not least, Exim.

    The new solution from Kaspersky Lab is also compatible with the AMaViS software bridge between a mail server and the anti-spam solution, which further expands compatibility with messaging platforms.

    Other key features include support for IPv6, rich traffic management rules and the potential for integration with Microsoft's Active Directory and Open LDAP.

    Overall, the automatic notification system and support for integration with third-party monitoring software keeps system admins well informed about the security status of their Linux mail system at all times.

    Source: openSUSE.

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